Fly-by shooting [By Jiao Haiyang/China.org.cn]
U.S. President Barack Obama made a telephone call to Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari on Dec. 4, saying the casualties of Pakistani soldiers in a NATO strike on a Pakistani military checkpoint were "regrettable" and expressing his condolences to the victims. On the same day, the U.S. military started to retreat from the Shamsi Airbase within the territory of Pakistan according to Pakistan's demands. The whole world is asking what is next for U.S.-Pakistan relations in the wake of this current crisis.
To date, the United States and Pakistan have taken different views of the air strike. The United States seems to be trying to paper over the incident. After the air strike, the United States issued a statement to "stress the importance of U.S.-Pakistan partnership" and called NATO to conduct joint investigations. On one hand, it expressed "deepest condolences" for the casualties on the one hand, while it was still unwilling to make a formal apology to Pakistan on the other hand.
This shows that the United States upholds its traditional callused attitude toward crises, ignores the fundamental reason behind the inharmonious U.S.-Pakistan relationship and hopes to maintain the relationship based on only "minor repairs."
In contrast, Pakistan has shown a "soft confrontation"-style “counterattack.” After closing the NATO’s supply lines in Pakistan, requiring the U.S. troops to retreat from the Shamsi Airbase before deadline, and rejecting an invitation to the International Conference on Afghanistan, Pakistan has refused the invitation from the United States to jointly investigate the air strike on the Pakistani military checkpoint and released new military rules against another possible air strike by the NATO.
These series of initiatives show strong confrontational emotions and that Pakistan aims to take this opportunity to warn the United States to completely prevent similar incidents from happening again.
However, the United States and Pakistan still need each other, so in the short term their partnership will not break up simply because of this incident. On the one hand, the United States needs to take advantage of Pakistan’s geopolitical and cultural advantages to continue the crackdown on Al-Qaeda and to promote reconciliation in Afghanistan.
On the other hand, Pakistan also has strong incentives to take the initiative to maintain its partnership with the United States to contain India, hinder the increasingly close strategic ties between India and the United States and prevent the strategic imbalance in South Asia from escalating.
Furthermore, Pakistan needs the economic aid of the United States to boost domestic economic development as well as the superpower’s help in establishing a stable and friendly Afghanistan regime to gain a strategic depth. Given the aforementioned facts, Pakistan has publicly announced that in order to promote political reconciliation in Afghanistan, the United States, Pakistan and Afghanistan should adopt an honest attitude, clarify their stance and enhance the cooperation and coordination among one another, although it has refused to attend the Bonn Conference on Afghanistan.
Pakistan has taken bold moves to show the United States its will, and Pakistani Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani said that Pakistan’s relations with the United States should be based on trust, equality and mutual benefit.
The United States must take Pakistan’s just demands into serious consideration. “Living with dignity” reflects the will of the Pakistani people and may become a new principle guiding the development of Pakistan-U.S. relations in the future.
This post was first published by China Military Online and translated by People's Daily online.